By Yuriy Kasyanov
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
Let’s speak openly. We are losing the war. The string of
battlefield defeats, punctuated by the so-called “peace agreements”
demonstrates the political powerlessness of the government and the total
inadequacy of the military high command. Let’s count. The agreement to let
Girkin [a.k.a. Strelkov] from Slavyansk, the destruction of our forces in the
border sector D, Ilovaysk, the retreat from Lugansk airport, the loss of
Novoazovsk, 32nd and 32st checkpoints, the defeat at Donetsk
Airport, Debaltsevo…It’s a far from complete list of our failures. The list of
victorious lies is even longer: we tend to call our defeats victories, and to
blame the Kremlin for all the failures. If the retreat cannot be prevented then
it has to be renamed, by calling it a “planned withdrawal” with subsequent
military decorations and commemorative photos. The treacherous Putin can serve
as an alibi personal cowardice and incompetence. Our losses are under-reported
by a wide margin. We are short of equipment, artillery ammunition is nearly all
gone; we can’t expect military aid from the glorious Western democracies. We
can see the specter of total military catastrophe, the loss of even greater
territories, an economic collapse, and the break-up of the state system of
We are losing. We are losing because we are fighting an
enemy which we do not want to defeat. The enemy is not the homegrown
separatists, not Russian occupiers, and not even the entire “Russian world” of
Putin. We are our own enemy number one: our cowardly short-sighted leaders and
clumsy commanders; our new/old Rada, incapable of accepting the responsibility
for the country; the mindless corruption which had become a part of our lives;
our serf worldview which expects favors from a good master.
We do have enlightened minds, clean hands, and burning
hearts. Nearly all of them are at the front. In general brains work better at
war; life becomes more understandable and people show their true nature. Here
you are valued by your deeds and not by your words; no rank, expensive
equipment, or fashionable assault rifle are worth anything if the person is a
craven coward. Here they fight well enough, to the extent that our GenStaff
does not interfere; they consider each peace agreement the prelude to an even
bigger war, and they know what needs to be done for that victory.
It’s different behind the front. Some are praying for the
president, others curse him. While cursing, they find themselves a new icon on
the blue screen, and pray to it. Behind the front, people put their hopes in
the West, sanctions, and military aid. They consider all volunteers heroes, and
the prominent battalion commanders Napoleons. Behind the front they don’t want
to fight and don’t like bad news. In the battle between the truth about the war
and the TV, the latter wins. When the reality of war penetrates mass
consciousness, the citizens fall into cognitive dissonance with the propaganda
inculcated earlier. It may end with a blind rebellion—an assault on the
presidential administration, a siege of the GenStaff, the burning of the Rada,
or the destruction of other foundations of the state which would only make our
northern neighbor happy.
The northern neighbor wants Ukraine. Putin dreams of
rebuilding the USSR. The majority of Russia’s population wants the same thing.
Chauvinism is reaching unheard-of heights, military hysteria is growing,
peaceful inhabitants of affluent Russian cities are ready to come to kill us.
Putin is prepared to launch a direct aggression. The West and the US will not
fight for us. Kremlin had won a convincing victory in the war of nerves against
the entire civilized world: Ukraine was surrendered to Putin like
Czechoslovakia to Hitler. We are losing. We are, in fact, alone, one on one
with a cruel enemy. But we want to win. What is to be done? Fight in the rear
areas and fight at war. Don’t rebel but forcefully change the system. Change
yourselves. Build a new army. Advance talented combat commanders. Develop the
It’s too early to give up. The struggle will be a long
one…We’ll talk about winning in the next article.
[and here is the next article]
What is to be done?
What is to be done when the country is facing aggression,
but no war has been declared? What to do, when the president shakes hands with
the main enemy? How to fight, when GenStaff only creates obstacles, and plans
defeat after defeat? What to hope for, if the West has chickened out and does
not help? Where to find a fulcrum, when the majority of the country does not
know and does not want to know the truth about the war? How to win?
We have to admit we are at war. Don’t declare war on Russia,
but don’t negotiate with the aggressor, in hopes for a mythical peace. One has
to fight for real. The work of state agencies, the entire economy, societal
life, everything has to be oriented toward victory.
Victory is the achievement of the ultimate objective of the
war. The objectives are understood and just: reestablishment of territorial
integrity, reestablishment of the Constitution and the rule of law on the
entire territory of the country, punishment of collaborators, criminals, and
Those are the national objectives, and not the “peace
agreements” which should animate all of our ideas and deeds. One must not
compromise with enemies of Ukraine, the state, and the people. The more
consistent we are in pursuing our goals, the faster and with fewer casualties
will our victory arrive.
The West will not support us, or it will support us
conditionally. NATO troops will not defend us, the US will not step in. Europe
is too fat and peaceful, and is not ready to sacrifice for Ukraine. Obama is
not Reagan or Bush, he is a weak president. We cannot expect military aid,
serious arms supplies, or even full diplomatic support. The Old World is too
dependent on Russian energy, and the US president is very afraid of the Kremlin
midget with the nuclear button.
We can count only on our own strength. This awareness will
help us mobilize and win.
The government should be up to the challenge, namely, the
war. It’s obvious our president is no commander-in-chief. Not a warrior. We
need a Ben Gurion, who tore Israel out of centuries of non-existence, a
Churchill who could mobilize the nation for a national struggle against
fascism, our Vaclav Havel or Lech Walesa. We have none. (Timoshenko, Gritsenko,
Lyashko, and Tyagnibok don’t count). The country has no national leader,
therefore all appeals for a “Third Maidan” are senseless and harmful. We’ll get
a pig in a poke or, worse, we’ll get open traitors or marginal. Any
destabilization of the country will be destructive to Ukrainian statehood, and
will totally discredit the national idea.
We need to influence the government. We need to insist. We
need to argue. Through authoritative national representatives. Through the
media. By meetings and demonstrations. Lawfully, but forcefully.
Incidentally, the president is only part of the government.
We are de jure a parliamentary-presidential republic. We need to demand action
from our deputies. Meet with your
deputies. Picket the Rada, organize meetings and demonstrations. This is a
perfectly normal means of influencing the government in a civilized [sic]
But no rebellions or coups. Unless we want to bury Ukraine.
Our task is to force the president and parliament to adopt a range of important
personnel and legislative decisions which will bring effective managers into
positions of authority over the country’s defense and untie their hands.
First of all, we need to replace the military high command
which has already established its inadequacy. In the army, as the saying goes, “the
fish rots from the head”—all the problems, victories, and defeats are created
from above. We fight in accordance with the quality of our leadership. We fight
better when we ignore the leaders.
It’s stupid to blame soldiers and officers in their lack of
preparedness, their inability to use equipment and weapons, in unwillingness to
fight, in cowardice. It’s stupid, because commanders are responsible for the
cadre selection and for training. The soldier is only allowed to take
initiative by dying in battle.
The role of personality in the army and at war is very high.
Military history is the history of war leaders. Everything depends on who
commands. We’re still yet to see any victories, and the long list of defeats is
the responsibility of the president, the GenStaff chief. The Minister of
Defense has the role of ensuring the logistical support of the military. The
National Defense Council is an advisory institution. The Rada committee on
defense has no authority whatsoever, therefore it’s completely ignored. Only
the president and the GenStaff chief are truly responsible for the war. To be
more specific, only the president is responsible, because Muzhenko is the
creature and subordinate of the president.
Removing Muzhenko should be simple. The problem is in
replacing him. There are officers at the front or in the GenStaff who are
talented and who can lead the army to victory (Semenchenko, Melnichuk,
Gritsenko, and Lyashko don’t count). But will the president choose the best
one, or at least one of the glorious pantheon of experienced combat commanders?
What will he take into account, other than personal loyalty?
The new GenStaff chief, should one appear, ought to receive
a carte blanche from the president and Rada to wage the war. It means that the
people, the Rada, the government, and the President will adopt the idea of
preserving Ukraine as the national idea, and will entrust its implementation
through military means to the new command. The new command should not have its
hands tied by pseudo-piece with occupiers and bandits.
The army ought not to languish on the perimeter of the
occupied zone while the enemy is preparing new offensives and cauldrons. One
should not merely react to attacks after the fact, but attempt to prevent them.
The army ought to be constantly on the move, quickly and effectively. Plan
offensive operations, destroy occupier basis and march columns as soon as they
cross the borders of Ukraine.
The tragedy of Debaltsevo was that after the “peace”
agreement the command undertook no measures, except for unsuccessful attempts
to create a “corridor”. The enemy was counting on that, and carried out a regrouping
which included the withdrawal of forces from other sectors of the front. At
that time we could have easily liberated Pervomaysk and Gorlovka which were
practically abandoned. We could have created a corridor to Debaltsevo from
Krymskoye through Fruze and Stakhanov, attacking from the rear and surrounding
the enemy forces near Bakhmutka. None of that was attempted. We strictly abided
by the “ceasefire” while the enemy destroyed our forces at Debaltsevo…
We can win, return our lands, and defend Ukraine only by
attacking. It must be understood and implemented. It must become our military doctrine
in the east. We must place talented commanders at the head of the army and give
them real authority. We must reorganize the army and the front. We must act. We
have very little time left. The enemy is mustering his forces. The real war
will begin soon.
J.Hawk’s Comment: The Ukrainian internet is positively overflowing with the “Do Something!” genre of political analysis which, alas, tends to be rather divorced from reality. Because if eternal conflict with Novorossia and Russia is the dogma on which the post-Maidan Ukraine is founded, then any advice rendered on the basis of such assumptions is bound to belong to the realm of fantasy. This, too, is a highly unrealistic set of
proposals. What, exactly, has kept Poroshenko from doing any of these things
since he became president? We can safely assume nothing Kasyanov wants will
come to pass.
Which brings us to the next question: then what? Kasyanov
comes very, very close to arguing in favor of a military dictatorship, both in
his depiction of the front as the repository of Ukraine’s real patriots who
know how to get things done (not unlike the Frontsoldaten who would fix Germany
once they came to power in the 1930s…) and in his call for the next GenStaff
chief to have virtually unlimited authority. Should Poroshenko fail to deliver
the hoped-for victory, might Kasyanov not place his hopes in a military